Religious experience

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  • Religious experience
    • Visions
      • St Augustine classified three categories
        • Corporeal
          • Those that come through the physical sense of sight
            • Eg St Bernadette of Lourdes saw a 'small young lady' who identified herself as the immaculate conception
        • Imaginative
          • No visual image; the experience illuminates the soul
            • Eg Teresa of Avila- 'I saw Christ close by me... or to speak more correctly, felt Him'
        • Intellectual
          • Seen in the mind, often through a dream
            • Eg Joseph's dream where he was told that Mary was pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit and that he was to marry her
    • Numinous experiences: Otto; an apprehension of the wholly other
      • KEY IDEAS
        • Non rational and unique- totally outside our everyday experience
        • Sense of 'wholly other'
        • Emphasis on God's transcendence
      • An experience of the numinous
        • Refers to a presence and reality that cannot be understood with the senses or intellect
        • Sense of the holy
          • HOLY- 'other than', 'separate from'
          • Attempt to describe the sense some people have of a reality totally outside and beyond their experience of themselves and the world
      • Mysterium tremendum et fascinans
        • 'Fearful and attractive mystery'
        • MYSTERIUM:something far removed from humanity that can be experienced but not understood; elicits the response of awe and wonder
        • TREMENDUM:                 fearsome experience of God's overwheling majesty and energy; creates a sense of human nothingness and sinfulness= absolute dependence on God
        • FASCINANS: the compulsive and attractive nature of the experience creates a desire for a relationship, despite its fearful nature; creates an awareness of the need for salvation; Isiah experienced God's forgiveness and mercy
    • Mystical experiences
      • William James
        • Sympathetic to religion but wasn't religious
        • Applied the insights of science, particularly psychology
        • Religious experience is primary
        • Organised religion arose out of people comparing their religious experiences
        • The true purpose of humanity is union with the higher universe that gives the world significance
        • 4 criteria for assessing the genuine nature of a mystical experience
          • PASSIVITY
            • The experience controls the mystic, whose will is unable to direct what happens
            • This may result in unusual activity eg Teresa of Avila is said to have levitated
          • INEFFABILITY
            • A private experience that makes sense only to other mystics
            • Cannot be described in words so negative language may be used
          • NOETIC quality
            • The encounter gives genuine insight into truths
            • They consist of non rational and intuitive rather than intellectual knowledge
          • TRANSIENCY
            • The experience is usually short, almost always no more than 1-2 hours
            • With time, it becomes more difficult to reproduce the memory, but its continuing significance is seen in any further experience
            • Has a life transforming effect on the individual's view of life
      • Walter Stace
        • Saw little point in attempting rational proofs of God's existence
          • God is either a mystery or nothing at all
        • Saw the goal of all religious experience as union with God
        • Mysticism is nothing to do with: the occult or parapsychology; visions or auditory experiences
        • 2 types
          • INTROVERTIVE: those in which sense experience is totally supressed and there is no sense of 'I' which is replaced by 'the One'
            • Ultimate mystical experience
            • No awareness of the world
            • No intellectual function
            • Ordinary human consciousness is replaced with mystical consciousness in which the 'I' is absent
          • EXTROVERTIVE: those in which sense experience is still active, though objects are transfigured by the 'unity that shines through'
            • Half way house to introvertive experience
            • Normal objects are seen with the physical senses, but they are transfigured so that the non sensuous unity of all things shines through them


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